Friday, August 21, 2009

Forest for the trees

No wonder the Town Mangler avoided public comment on the "draft report" of the blue ribbon committee commissioned over 1.5 years ago to analyze our $60+ million town budget. Like me, he probably can't figure out what the Hell they are trying to say.

Reminds me of my Umass freshman days where I would spew garbage into a paper and hope the Professor would separate the wheat from the chaff.

I find it odd they would collect and compare statewide data "selected on basis of population, per capita income, land area, median family income, equalized property valuations, and operating budget."

Students comprise about half of Amherst's 35,000 population. And as State Senator Stan Rosenberg has pointed out many, many times (when pressured to get more $ out of Umass for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes), the state counts students equally as year-round residents, the vast majority of whom work and make decent annual salaries.

Many students do not work, or work under the table--thus skewing the criteria for comparisons.

The major problem with Amherst is minor math: over half of town property is tax-exempt (owned by Amherst College, Umass, Hampshire College and the town Conservation Department). And of the half that is on the tax rolls, 90% are homes and only 10% commercial property.

Amherst needs more businesses and for the tax-exempts to step up and carry their bloated weight.

Click to enlarge/read (warning: snooze alert)


Anonymous said...

Most of what you say here is correct. The mistake involves Town Conservation Land: even though it doesn't pay taxes, it also doesn't cost much if anything to keep; it also protects drinking water and provides lots of
(passive) recreational activity which makes the town
a more attractive (and thus more expensive, meaning
more tax revenue) place to live and work. You could think of this way: if you simply take all the Amherst
conservation land and rename it the Town of Pete, the remainder would be a somewhat smaller Town of Amherst with the same population, the same tax base (and very strangely shaped border).

P.S. Nice photograph, by the way!

- You know whom

Anonymous said...

Think of the it the other way. The land that the town owns is really land that you own a piece of and don't have to pay any taxes. You lucky stiff.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, and let's not forget Amherst spent $2.2 million over 20 years ago to acquire by eminent domain (the most expensive landtaking in town history) the Cherry Hill Golf Course and then lost another $1 million in golf operational losses since.

For that amount we could buy a boatload of clean water from the Big-Y Supermarket

Ed said...

Interesting claim about how the conservation land protects the aquifer when most (all?) of the Amherst water sources are uphill in PELHAM. So exactly how is the drinking water protected by downhill conservation land????

Ed said...

Treat the other non-profits like UMass.

Exactly what does UMass itself cost Amherst? You can't include the police costs for the off-campus students unless you include the school costs for the AHA clients in the Section 8 apartments too. Unless you go to outfits like ServiceNet and ask them to pay the costs of their employees who are also Amherst residents.

So what does UM cost - other than the fire department (and the ambulance service *makes* money from UM students) and mutual aid which goes both ways, all of its municipal services are either self-provided or contracted to Amherst at or above cost (water/sewer).

Now what do all the other non-profits cost? Which police department rolls to the Men's Resource Center if they get protested? Who plows the road in front of their building? Etc.

And why aren't they being asked for PILOT fees????

Anonymous said...

Ed may be confused, but perhaps this will help clear things up:

Amherst has surface-water supplies in Pelham and Shutesbury, and the Town of Amherst owns a lot of
the watershed (as conservation land) for the associated reservoirs. In addition, Amherst has ground-water supplies in the Lawrence swamp, and much of the Town-owned conservation land on the eastern side of Amherst (and even parts of Pelham and Belchertown protect this (the aquifer).

Ed said...

Amherst has surface-water supplies in Pelham and Shutesbury, and the Town of Amherst owns a lot of
the watershed (as conservation land)

I did not know that you were allowed to purchase conservation land outside of the municipal boundaries...

That could create some really interesting issues between a fairly rich Amherst and other communities wishing to develop the land for the tax base, particularly buildable land not restricted by the watershed issue.